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CHEF JAMES: While researching for your latest book 'What to Drink with What you Eat', did you find any significant regional differences in what types of beverages are ordered in restaurants around the country?
KAREN PAGE: Hmmm....Do you mean other than sweet tea being seen as "the house wine of the South"? Truthfully, the dozens of sommeliers we interviewed for this book are pretty cosmopolitan, so I think the similarities of their recommendations (e.g. their passionate love of Riesling, for its food-friendliness) were even more striking.
CHEF JAMES: Are Americans in general feeling more comfortable when ordering wines at a restaurant? Are we becoming more confident or adventurous when ordering wine or beer to go with our meals?
KAREN PAGE: I think there's an ongoing cycle of 1) new beverage introductions by companies, 2) new sampling by adventurous consumers, and 3) new acceptance of the formerly foreign as commonplace. The cycle repeats as new beverage entrants into the market are sampled and embraced (or rejected and left to wither into obscurity) by consumers always on the lookout for what's new and different.
Market acceptance is being helped along by the unprecedented number of new wine and other beverage reference books that are available to consumers and professionals alike. In fact, I believe that when history looks back upon 2006, it will be seen as THE turning point year for food and beverage pairing -- and as the year when its explosion in popularity helped lead it to become an everyday, and not just a special occasion, occurrence. In addition to WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT (which addresses alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages), this past year we've witnessed an explosion in pairing books addressing everything from wine to sake to water, all of which will lead to seeing food and beverage pairing offerings become more commonplace on restaurant menus as well as in private homes.
CHEF JAMES: Over the past 20 years or so we have seen a significant increase in microbreweries and regional beers, and an increase in 'boutique' wineries and more are states producing wines. Is this here to stay, or is this just part of a cycle? Will we see the large breweries and wineries again buying up the smaller competition?
KAREN PAGE: Yes, you're definitely seeing the same cycle that I've observed over the past 20-30 years. My college boyfriend wanted to start his own boutique brewery in the early 1980s, when there was a similar explosion as we're seeing today. The best (and/or the luckiest!) of those smaller breweries (and wineries) have become medium-sized breweries (and wineries), and new entrants are always coming along to try to offer their own spin on things.
CHEF JAMES: If you were stranded on a desert island for a year surviving on water, coconuts and seaweed, what would be the first beverage you would like to drink after you were rescued? Your first meal?
KAREN PAGE: I think I'd be craving lots of great, pure water -- such as Fiji, which is my favorite. After I was properly hydrated, I'd go for a glass of Dr. Loosen Riesling, which is Andrew's and my "house wine" at home in New York City.
And as long as it was Andrew who was doing the cooking, I know I'd love my first meal -- whatever it was. Andrew is not only a wonderful writer, but he's a wonderful chef, and I'm lucky that he loves to cook for me. I'd probably ask him for some roast chicken and apple crisp -- two of my favorite comfort foods that he makes!
CHEF JAMES: What one thing do you hope people will learn from your latest book 'What to Drink with What you Eat'?
KAREN PAGE: The reason we wrote this book was to encourage people to bring more pleasure and enjoyment into their lives through something they already do three times a day. I hope that people will read WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT and discover that it only takes a few seconds to make conscious choices about pairing food and drink, and that the pay-off can include affordable, peak experiences -- every single day!
About Karen Page:
James Beard Award-winning co-author of BECOMING A CHEF, CULINARY ARTISTRY, DINING OUT, CHEF'S NIGHT OUT, THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF and WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT
Founder, Harvard Business School alumnae network
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